Warhol’s Portrait of Basquiat Will Go on View in an Unlikely Place—Brooklyn’s Barclays Center—to Promote Its Upcoming Christie’s Sale

The venue is also rolling out a VIP "Crown Club" inspired by the artist.

The Brooklyn Nets playing at the Barclays Center, with Basquiat-themed jerseys and floor decor. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Christie’s is rolling out an unusual marketing campaign to promote a portrait of Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat by Andy Warhol that may fetch more than $20 million at auction in New York next month.

Instead of unveiling the 1982 work at its Rockefeller Center headquarters, the auction house will present it at the Barclays Center arena. The painting will be on view during the season-opening home games between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets, on October 24, and the Washington Wizards, on October 25.

An exterior view of Barclays Center, the unlikely new venue for Andy Warhol's portrait of Basquiat. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

An exterior view of Barclays Center, the unlikely new venue for Andy Warhol’s portrait of Basquiat. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

The two-day viewing of Warhol’s Jean-Michel Basquiat will take place in the new VIP luxury lounge called Crown Club. The venue’s name is a nod to the artist’s recurring crown motif, a version of which also appears on the Barclays Center court whenever the team plays home games while wearing the Basquiat-inspired jerseys it adopted for the 2021 season.

Christie’s will also install two massive vinyl boards depicting the work near the stadium, at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues; one is 12 feet tall and 46 feet wide, another 12 feet tall and 27 feet wide.

“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done,” said Emily Kaplan, head of the 20th century evening sale where the painting will be offered on November 11. “The stars aligned for this to work out.”

The work is one of Warhol’s “oxidation” paintings, a sophisticated name for a series that Warhol created by coating canvases with either copper or gold paint and then peeing on (or inviting friends to pee on) them.

It was consigned by Peter Brant, a collector of both Warhol and Basquiat, who bought it in the early 2000s from Jose Mugrabi, another major holder of work by both artists. It was most recently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Warhol retrospective in 2019.

Prices for Basquiat, who died in 1988, have skyrocketed as a new generation of buyers embraced him as a cultural icon. Auction sales for his work totaled $302.7 million during the first half of 2021, second only to Pablo Picasso. In the meantime, Andy Warhol’s market has contracted, to just under $150 million during the same period.

Christie’s is branding the marketing campaign “the icon’s icon,” Kaplan said. “When we think about the historical hierarchy of Warhol’s subjects, there’s Elvis, Marilyn, and Liz. Maybe we are moving to the moment when Basquiat is being more recognizable to the next generation than these icons.”

Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1982). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1982). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Christie’s clients will be able to view the painting before, during, and after the games, she added, as Crown Club is accessible from the first few rows of seats, with security around the clock.

She will also give a brief talk about the painting during half time.

The Nets is owned by Joseph Tsai, co-founder of China’s Alibaba Group, who bought the team from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The transaction has been reportedly valued at the record $2.35 billion and was completed in 2019.

The Warhol Basquiat campaign is the brainchild of Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th/21st century art. He’s been looking for a way to collaborate with the Nets ever since attending the team’s victorious game at Barclays in February and spotting Basquiat’s signature crown on the court’s floor.

“I just took it a step further,” Rotter said.

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